The logo of this 3-month-old place on Española Way is a small skiff, and a similar sky-blue and red-striped boat hangs in a rope net from the ceiling. Fresh seafood is the reason to dine here, and not just because the name, Mare Mio, translates to “My Sea.” Chef-owner Claudio Giordano, famed for the late great Altamare on Lincoln Road, works with fishermen who bring him the catch of the day. He displays the fish on a bed of ice in a trolley from which customers can choose their fish and cooking preparation. Daily catch varies, but there are always oysters on the half shell, snapper ceviche, wahoo crudo with avocado and Meyer lemon, salmon tartare.
Giordano is from the small town of Alvignano in the Southern Italian region of Campania on the Tyrrhenian Sea, famed for coastal lowlands and the Neapolitan Apennines mountain range. It was first settled by Greek colonists and Etruscans from the pre-Roman Tuscan region of central Italy.
He went to hotel schools in Italy and Germany, then worked at the Hilton in London as a waiter and bartender. He landed at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Puerto Ordaz, a city at the confluence of the Caroni and Orinoco Rivers in eastern Venezuela. He windsurfed on the rivers and rode his motorcycle through the jungle from Venezuela to Brazil. After seven years he came to Miami, where he has been 31 years. After selling his flagship restaurant last year, he took six months off to travel around Europe getting new ideas — one of which was to specialize in oysters.
Selections of the bivalves include the small Kusshi (“precious” in Japanese) from Vancouver, with an ultra-clean flavor. They are grown and tumbled in trays to deepen and thicken the shells. Kumamoto are known as the “Chardonnay of oysters,” as everyone appreciates the firm, plump and succulent slightly sweet morsels from the Pacific coast. Wellfleets from Massachusetts have a light body and clean salty finish. There’s also Blue Points from Long Island, salty with pine and anise notes; Beausoleil from New Brunswick, Canada, grown in floating trays, with a light briny flavor and slight yeasty bread aroma; Shigoku from the Pacific Northwest, with a light clean taste and a hint of cucumber; and Malepeque from Prince Edward Island, with a good balance of sweetness and brine.
You can also start with octopus carpaccio with lemon and olive oil or the Mare soup, whose clear broth is enriched with clams and rock shrimp plus ginger, enoki mushrooms, bok choy and truffle oil. Pastas include mushroom ravioli with truffled porcini; spaghetti with clams; and linguini with shrimp, clams and calamari with roasted tomato and fresh basil. Mains include ink squid risotto with seafood; grilled pork ribeye with caramelized onions and pickled bell peppers; and grilled lamb chops dusted in zatar. With 24 hours of notice, groups can enjoy a whole rack of lamb, 8-pound roasted suckling pig tender enough to cut with a china plate, or whole rabbit with Dijon mustard sauce. Sides include truffle fries, whipped potatoes and steamed asparagus. End with pear and almond cream tart served with Blue Stilton and honey for a play of sweet and salty.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.